Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the two major subtypes of lymphoma, and about 72,000 people will be diagnosed with this cancer by the end of 2017, according to the American Cancer Society. There are more than 50 types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma – including B-cell and T-cell lymphomas, as well as fast-growing and slow-growing lymphomas.
There are a host of immune-based treatments for this type of cancer that have impacted patient outcomes, according to Ann LaCasce, MD, an oncologist in the Adult Lymphoma Program of the Hematologic Oncology Treatment Center at Dana-Farber. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is a form of cellular therapy that uses a patient’s own immune system cells to rally an attack on cancer cells.
“It’s really a remarkable treatment,” LaCasce said in a September 2017 Facebook Live chat, adding that she is hopeful that the therapy will soon be approved for aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “We’ve seen patients [in clinical trials]— whose disease has persisted despite lots of prior treatment — have complete remissions, and, we hope, go on to be cured.”
In August, 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CAR T-cell therapy for pediatric patients and young adult patients up to the age 25 with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Immunotherapy drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors are another way of unshackling a patient’s immune system cells from attacking tumor cells. The drugs nivolumab and pembrolizumab are both approved for advanced Hodgkin lymphoma, and are being studied in non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In the live chat, LaCasce also discussed risk factors for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. People who grow up in rural areas can be more likely to develop lymphoma due to environmental toxins, LaCasce said. People whose immune systems are compromised through HIV, as well as those with autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, may also be more likely to develop the disease. LaCasce also explained the staging approach for lymphoma, which is different than staging for solid tumors.
Learn more about treatment advances for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as how to manage short-term and long-term side effects of treatment: